This German wine deserves another taste
Posted on June 12, 2017
If there’s one response serious drinkers of Riesling wish would go away, it’s, “I don’t like Rieslings — they’re all too sweet!” I once mistakenly thought that as well. Following a recent investigation, I learned this German wine varietal deserves more respect.
My re-education began in the Rheingau, the castle-dotted heart of Riesling wine country near Frankfurt. I started in the touristy town of Rüdesheim am Rhien, perched along the famous Rhine River. For several days, all I drank was Riesling. Immediately, the difference between what’s typically available in the United States versus Germany revealed itself. While there is sweet Riesling, the vast majority of what Germans drink is either dry or medium-dry, which is how it’s labeled on the bottle. Most of these wines display high acidity, faint effervescence, and flavor notes that include green apple, pineapple, citrus, and apricot. I also learned that a faint whiff of petroleum is good — that wine is of extremely high quality and has long aging potential, thanks to a chemical compound in the grape called TDN.
My favorite tastes were at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, where the religious sisters make wine alongside their winemaker. It was here, while sampling with one of the nuns, that I learned much of what is produced in the Rheingau is consumed locally. Little of the output makes it to the United States because individual winery productions are small and import hurdles are large. I then understood: this is exactly why many Americans misunderstand German Riesling. We don’t always get what’s best.
Damon Goldstein and Sabrina Bochen, the couple behind San Diego’s own German wine importer Truly Fine Wine, have been trying to fix that problem. When Bochen, who is originally from the Rheingau, first moved to the United States, she was confused. “I was shocked — I couldn’t find any German wine! What I did find was mass-produced or very sweet, and that’s not really consumed regularly in Germany,” she recalls. The pair realized they had a good business idea, and they now distribute many German wines to retail stores and restaurants across the nation.
Riesling is a terroir-expressive grape, meaning it’s highly changeable depending on where it’s grown. For Rheingau-area Riesling, you want to look for the word “trocken” on the label, meaning “dry,” unless you prefer a sweeter wine. “VdP” indicates the highest quality wines, and “GG,” that the highest quality vineyard was used. Pair the crisp and citrusy wine with fatty foods like pork or spicy Indian or Thai dishes.
If all of this makes you want to give Riesling a try, you can buy it at Truly Fine Wine’s warehouse on Morena Boulevard, The 3rd Corner’s two locations in Encinitas and Ocean Beach, and the The WineSellar & Brasserie in Sorrento Valley. Jackie Bryant
Photography by Jackie Bryant